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Eco Friendly Gifts

by Lauren Marani, UEC Intern Do you have difficulty coming up with unique gifts for friends and family? Why not keep both their interests and the environment in mind when buying this holiday season? Eco-friendly gifts are abundant, and you can find a great gift for nearly anyone with a little investigation. Many of these gifts can save energy and water, not to mention money (they’re durable). So, after a long search, here is a list of things I wouldn’t mind unwrapping – the top ten environmentally friendly gifts for this holiday season: Energy saver light bulb: Electronic compact fluorescent bulbs use five times less energy than incandescent bulbs. They last up to 10,000 hours, which is ten to thirteen times longer than regular bulbs. A share in a local organic farm: In Community Supported Agriculture or CSA, you purchase an entire season of farm-fresh produce in advance and receive weekly deliveries of the tastiest, healthiest stuff around. Perfect for someone who enjoys food and wants to eat in a way that sustains the earth. For more information and a list of local CSA’s, log on to www.urbanecologycenter.org or call Darrell Smith at 414-964-8505 x.114. AAA rated showerhead: Hot water represents about 35 percent of the power usage of the average home, and using one of these showerheads can save up to 60 percent on water. If you don’t feel comfortable asking someone to give up their sacred shower, you can get them a sink attachment with volume flow control that measures the volume of water. The water flow looks the same, but uses 44 percent less water than normal taps. Rain barrel rainwater collection system: This barrel is a great source of natural water storage that can be used to water plants, a garden, or for adding moisture to compost. Dr. Bronner’s soap: Locally produced and distributed, Dr. Bronner’s is a staple in any organic household. The Bronner’s are strong supporters of environmental organizations as well. Give peppermint soap and a candy cane. Bicycle basket, rack trunk, or pannier: Encourage your friends to commute by bike by providing them with the attachments they need to transport their papers, computers and groceries. Commuting by bike saves gas, reduces pollution, and gives your friend a chance to spend time outdoors. Outdoor sports equipment: The kids can get in on these gifts too! Skates, skis, snowboards, or snowshoes (especially those designed for icy terrain) persuade kids to explore and have fun outdoors. Birdhouse: Birdhouses will attract and provide shelter for a multitude of backyard birds. Do you know someone who has limited mobility? Build them a birdhouse and bring nature to them. Organic gift basket: Baskets can come with a variety of items, so you can customize them to whomever you are giving them to. Some contain organic teas and foods, while others come with natural products for your face and body. These items are healthy for us and healthy for the environment. Solar panel charger for small electronics: This gift is perfect for anyone, since most people are attached to their cell phones nowadays. These chargers use portable and free power from sunlight to recharge batteries and can run 90 percent of small electronics, like cell phones, digital cameras, walkmans and more. Membership to the Urban Ecology Center: With the new building, interesting all-ages program offerings and access to the Center’s equipment lending program, the gift of membership will be unique and enjoyable for everyone on your list. Log on to: www.urbanecologycenter.org to download a form, call 964-8505, or visit the Center (1500 E. Park Place). To complete your eco-friendly holiday, remember to shop locally first. Gifts that encourage environmental awareness are readily available in many local stores including Outpost Natural Foods, Laacke & Joys, and Woodland Pattern. Some things can also be found on the internet. A few great resources for gifts along these lines are www.abundantearth.com and www.care2.com. And finally, try wrapping your gifts in gently used wrapping paper or recycled magazines. There are many ways to celebrate the holidays in an eco-friendly way. Use this list as a starting point for your own gift giving.